Thursday, June 30, 2011

Can life get any better than this?

This is one of my favorite times of year. Not only because it's hot, and summer finally, but because it means time for RHUBARB!

I love it!

I remember sitting in our neighbor's rhubarb patch as a kid and eating it right in the middle of the garden. My friend would go in her house and get her mom's sugar bowl, and bring it out to the patch, so she could dip her rhubarb in sugar before she ate it. I was always worried that her mom would get mad at us for eating a stalk or two of her rhubarb. That was until I realized the stuff grows like weeds. Once you get a patch rabbits, rhubarb multiplies!

Two of my new favorite loves...

My aunt's rhubarb crisp

And Rhubarb Wine!

Fyi...I accept any and all recipes related to rhubarb! Happy Summer!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Prude Meets her Mower

I am a Prude.
I make no apologies for it. I’m proud to be a prude.
And although prudes and prudish tendencies are rare, the Midwest is peppered with them.
Prudes, although never surprised by bad language, frisky behavior between adults not married to each other, or the tendency of Hollywood to believe birthday suits are proper public attire, nonetheless heartily disapprove of such actions.

Traditionally prudes have expressed disapproval about the deplorable state of music, dance, politics and entertainment via raised eyebrows and stern lectures. Today’s prudes have also learned the delights of sharing varied disapprovals via the blog world.

My first blog lecture here at The Barn Door deals with one of my archenemies.
The Riding Lawnmower.
My 3 sons, while living under our roof, were the mowing masters. Those very sons are showing a propensity to marriage and college. My husband still shows a propensity to work long hours for a living and the grass shows a pesky propensity to grow.
One day when the lawn was so long I couldn’t find my little dog, my youngest gave me a crash course in how to handle the riding mower and then exited the premises. I found myself firmly seated on the Modern Invention with all its knobs, noise, and noxious fumes, and no one to keep an eye on me but the little dog.
We started slowly. The speed was set at TURTLE. I approve of the TURTLE setting. As I gained confidence I edged it up to RABBIT.

I began almost enjoying the ride. I felt a bit yee-hawish, like Dale Evans on Buttercup, or a middle aged cowgirl on the rodeo circuit.
I had not learned to turn off the mower (WHOA! proved ineffective) and there were small fallen branches to avoid since I couldn’t leap off, trot alongside while disposing of the limb, and then vault back on the continuously moving mower.

Wisely, I steered around the limbs. I also had to avoid low-flying butterflies, froggy creatures with no sense of self-preservation, and my dog who demonstrated anxious herding tendencies.

I swung merrily around trees, volleyball nets and septic system markers. When my husband came home (while I was still dashing about the yard at almost RABBIT speed) he loped toward me, swinging his arms wildly. I assumed he was giving me a BRAVO, HIGH FIVE, and YIPPEE SKIPPEE sign all at the same time. In a complicated series of turns, shifts, and twists he shut off the riding beast and pointed at the yard. I turned; ready to gaze at the work of art. And gasped genteelly.
Instead of lovely, long straight rows of neatly mown grass, the .538 acres looked like nothing so much as my psychedelic paisley jumpsuit from the 1970’s.

I was banished from the riding lawnmower and you-know-who has hidden the key.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Faire Une Promenade

Sunday afternoons in France were delightful.

Sometimes we would "dejeuner" with friends from church. A beautiful roast chicken or cassoulet with the ever present baguette would be followed by a simple salad with vinaigrette, a variety of cheese and fresh fruit. When we were certain we could eat no more, the hostess would offer a slice of apple tarte, a tray of les petits gateaux (cookies) or a piece of silken chocolate to accompany the strong coffee.

After lunch, everyone, young and old, would leave the house for a Sunday afternoon walk. In the words of our French friends we were going to "Faire une promenade."

This walk was not a jog around the block.

The goal was not exercise.

This walk was long and leisurely. Our "promenade" might lead us past village bakeries and flower shops. We might wend our way through a farmer's market filled with vocal vendors selling local vegetables and offering the catch of the day.

Often, it would end at a neighborhood park where other families walked and talked.

Children ran ahead, laughing and playing. Adults lagged behind, holding hour long conversations with friends and neighbors, stopping here and there to comment on a store window or slowing down to simply enjoy the green spaces of the parks.

Our Sunday afternoon walks were satisfying. They filled up so many needs of our lives: the need for nature, the need for friends, the need for family, the need for conversation, the need for fun and laughter.

It was probably our Sunday afternoon walks that saved us from gaining weight from the unforgettable French cuisine. But, I believe the French tradition of a Sunday "promenade" was healthy in another more important way.

It kept people, of all ages, engaged in life, engaged in nature and engaged with one another.

A recent UK study has shown that older adults who shop frequently live longer. The participants in the study didn't necessarily need to purchase anything to benefit from the "shopping" experience.

There is a lot of speculation on why these shoppers tended to live longer. Was it because they were healthy enough to continue to get out? Was it that they were in a better socio-economic group?

Well, I have my own theory.

They lived longer because they had learned how to "faire une promenade." These shoppers were staying engaged in life, engaged in environments outside their own home, engaged with other people.

May through September, the Midwest is a beautiful place to "faire une promenade." Living in Northeastern Illinois, we often drive to the Chicago Botanic Garden or simply walk the quaint streets of Lake Forest. Our State Parks with their well-cared for paths making going for a walk with the grandkids a safe and relaxing activity. Some Sundays, our "promenade" is a drive through Wisconsin farmland, appreciating cornfields and barns - old and new.

I have learned this is essential to my mental and emotional health. The more engaged I stay in relational and mentally stimulating activities,especially those connected with nature, the better I cope with the inevitable stress of life.

How I would love to find a group of friends who would "faire une promenade" on Sunday afternoons. Would you like to join me?


Monday, June 27, 2011

When the Way Gets Rough

We make a last-minute decision to check out our son’s wedding venue in Ludington, Michigan and make plans for the rehearsal meal. It’s a working weekend, but we take the bikes along, too.

And the grandgirl.

Because it’s also bachelorette party weekend, and her mom is in the wedding.

Ludington sits right on Lake Michigan and oozes history and begs for stories.

But that’s all for another time.

Must. Focus.

We have some trouble prying Grace away from the Waterfront Park with its playground and sculptures.

We promise ice cream and a swim in the hotel pool later. (We stuck our toes in Lake Michigan. It’s a tad cold yet.)

At the State Park, we unload the bikes and head out through the campground and up a trail toward the Big Sable Point Lighthouse. It’s a mile and a half, and it’s an easy ride through the dunes with a light breeze and few people.

Easy, that is, until we hit soft sand.

Grace and I struggle. We walk our bikes. She wants to give up and go back. Part of me does, too, but I encourage her on.

It can’t be much further.

We stop at some interpretive signs, and we read about the boats that wrecked just off shore and about Edith Morgan, the 21-year-old daughter of the lighthouse keeper who helped rescue three men from the icy water in March of 1879.

Grace hikes up the dune and is certain there’s a ship hidden under her feet.

We bike/walk on, and I think about how we are going to have to go back the same way.

Grace whines again. I try not to. But then I see it. The tip of the lighthouse just over the dune.

We can do it, Grace! Keep going.

And we're here! I’m so disappointed that I didn’t bring my camera. Grace is disappointed that we are too late for a tower tour. Me, too. We’ll come back.

The return ride seems easier, but Grace gives out just past the campground. We park our bikes and sit on a bench while Dennis rides on ahead. He’ll come back with the car.

And while he loads our wheels, we watch a deer nibble leaves next to the path. She pays us no mind.


The next day we pick up some picnic items at Hansen Foods and hop on the Hart-Montague bike trail, a 22-plus-mile stretch of asphalt over an old railroad bed.

This trail holds memories because we rode it several years ago when our own kids were young. We had to bribe them with doughnuts they could eat on the deck that overlooks the pond. My son did wheelies and raced ahead and came back--after maybe the tenth call, each a little louder and sharper than the previous one. He always rode twice as far as the rest of us.

Today we ride through farm and woods and meadow until somehow Grace manages to get her ankle caught up in her bike chain. There’s no blood, but she stumbles to the side of the trail and collapses on the ground in tears.

Other riders stop to offer aid and sympathy and encouragement.

Finally, she’s ready to move, but hesitates. Does she want to go forward to the pond even though we can’t remember how far it is, or does she want to turn back?

She decides to turn back, and she straddle-walks her bike for a good bit while Papa creep-pedals next to her. But it’s not too long before she catches up to me, and we ride side by side and chat. We stop at a bench along the trail for our picnic.

All is well.

But she needs new wheels if we’re going to do this very often.

And it strikes me that life is sometimes like a bike ride. The way gets rough or we get hurt, and we need to make a choice to push forward or back up for a season, equip ourselves—and prepare to try again.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Top Ten Attractions to Avoid on your Family Vacation

Okay, let’s admit it. We’ve all been taken in by those hyped-up billboards on the Interstate promising hours of non-stop family fun and adventure. And what about those racks of exotic-looking brochures in the lobby that lure you to underground stalactite caves, bumper car heaven and a wax museum of Elvis’ favorite cats? Yet, a Midwesterner seasoned Mom knows exactly which “Family Fun Attractions” to avoid at all costs while on vacation…

1. Any roadside diner advertising “Home Cooking” and a “Free Oil Change.”

2. Any medieval jousting match asking for your blood type and name of your next of kin.

3. Any mule trip into the
Grand Canyon that sells only one-way tickets.

4. Any tour of a nuclear power plant that promises, “You’ll be the first on your block to glow in the dark.”

5. Any Wild West rodeo cautioning, “Patrons absolutely forbidden from feeding bulls when they charge into the bleachers.”

6. Any IMAX 3D theater showing, The Fantastic Gall Bladder.

7. Any water amusement park promising, “E. coli fun for everyone!”

8. Any helicopter ride that requires proof of a Last Will and Testament.

9. Any bungee-jump attraction that promises, “Full Money Back Guarantee if we don’t Tie the Cord!”

10. Any flashing neon sign that reads, “We’ve Never Served the Same Customer Twice!” 

I learn everything the hard way, now you don't have to.  Check out the book and CD Help! Mom's Stuck on Spin Cycle to learn more of what not to do in life.

Now on Kindle.
You can buy just the book Help! Mom's Stuck on Spin Cycle on Kindle.

Cheryl's three blogs are available on
Kindle, also.
I Will Be Your Mentor Mom
Writing Mentor

Please leave a comment:  What's the very worst vacation you ever had?  Come on, we have all had one...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What A Trip

I took this photo on my recent vacation to Norway...Illinois, that is. Not exactly the destination of choice for most people, but then I like to find out-of-the-way gems. This one just happened to be less polished.

Nevertheless, it is that vacation time of year—complete with gas prices large enough to choke a horse. In fact, many people are reevaluating their budgets to see if traveling is even an option. But before you slash and burn your get-away plans, there’s an alternative you might want to consider.

Time travel.

Just think of TSA. No big hairy man with blue rubber gloves to grope, I mean check your private parts. Nor are you forced through an x-ray that not only shows that last piece of cheesecake you ate but also whether it landed on your hips or your thighs.

Granted, baggage can be an issue but seriously, do you really need to pack that much? You won’t whack out your back by lugging around a heavy suitcase (even if it is on wheels).

And whoa baby, what an adventure. Why settle for yet another beach vacation where you know you’ll soak up too many UV rays? Or Disneyland? Overrated. Not to mention expensive. One-up your neighbors and visit the future or the past. Imagine the pix you can post on your Facebook page.

Fabulous reasons, eh? But I know what you’re thinking. Michelle, time travel isn’t a viable option because, to put it mildly, IT’S NOT REAL.

Don’t let that minor detail keep you from the time of your life. Time travel books are a great way to escape the summer heat, and fortunately they abound on Amazon or at your public library. Go green and pick up a book for your great escape.

Need some recommendations? If you’re looking for a Viking age adventure complete with pillaging barbarians, then check out my latest release UNDERCURRENT. Or if a Wizard of Oz quest with a medieval twist piques your interest, then my other book GALLIMORE is the thing for you.

Author Lisa Mangum recently completed the Hourglass Door trilogy and it’s amazing. Two thumbs up! It brings Dante (yes, the dude of Inferno fame) to the present via a doorway constructed by DaVinci. Titles are: The Hourglass Door, The Golden Spiral and the Forgotten Locket.

I haven't read them yet, but Lisa T. Bergren has some new titles out that are on the top of my summer reading pile. It's the River of Time series, geared for young adult, but looks action-packed enough to hold anyone's interest.

An oldie but a goodie is Michael Crichton’s Timeline. Big beefy nights. Edge of your seat action. And yes, a happy ending.

If you’ve never tried a time travel novel, give it a whirl this summer. Sure beats five bucks a gallon.

Friday, June 24, 2011

We’re Not the Town Pound

Guest post by Carole Brown. 

I think someone took an ad out in the paper listing our place as the town pound.

Or it could be soft hearts and eyes are the culprits. I mean it’s not our fault, is it, that we fall in love with the strays (and some who aren’t) that enter our lives?

Take for instance Taffy (a Jack Russell?). We were all gone, so we can’t be blamed, when she showed up. A stray dog. Cute, but one I refused to talk to or examine or play with. Gotta keep the emotions in check, you know, and I know me. I need to develop a hard heart. (Or not)

Problem is, she showed up at an opportune time. Hubby’s brother had two horses on our property. Unfortunately, one of them died. That left one mighty lonesome horse that wouldn’t leave the gravesite of the other.

Ta da . . . Taffy’s appearance.

Now some claimed she was a god-send. Some claimed she was a nuisance. But when we got home, she sat a few feet away from Shyanne, as if comforting her. It must have worked cause after that, Shyanne has been fine. And ever once in awhile, Taffy heads for the field, I suppose, to have a good talk with her first Sunnybank Farm friend.

What are you suppose to do after an act like that? We did the only sensible thing. Took her in. Now she’s a part of the family we don’t want to ever do without: the boss! Or at least she thinks she is.

Time prevents me from telling you about Noah, our registered collie, who traveled all the way from Pennsylvania stretched out on our Cadillac back seat. He’s big and beautiful and protective even with Taffy, who orders him around like he’s her servant.

Or Twitch, No. 2 son’s ex-girlfriend, a pewter-colored cat, who definitely has a mind of her own and is a little on the antisocial level.

Or Cookie, the calico, a recent adoption, who didn’t visit the vet quick enough to prevent a family of four kittens. Fortunately, we’re getting them adopted. Sweet and totally lovable.

Or Tippy, somewhere in her heritage has Siamese in her blood. She was so tiny she fit in one hand. Touchy, but adorable with the most beautiful blue-green eyes. A cat who insists on being petted a certain way and lets you know if you don’t mind your manners around her.

Or even Hecter and Specter, two roosters—no less—given to us from a generous nephew who no longer wanted to put up with their four o’clock in the morning crowing.

We midwesterns are strong, steady, and smart. We’re also softies when it comes to our visual sights and innocent eyes. I reckon we’ll keep on adopting as long as there are creatures who need a little loving.

Anybody out there want to send a donation to the Brown Pound Club? Smile.

Author Carole Brown has published four children’s books used in Christian schools, VBS, and homes. She is a Suspense Zone reviewer, has been an editor and co-editor of many newsletters, has helped to develop advertising brochures, written various magazine articles, and has received several awards for her poems. An experienced blogger, she has over two hundred followers, interviews CBA authors, writes about the industry and networks with others on both her blog and Facebook where she has close to two thousand friends.

She is a 2011 ACFW Genesis finalist in Women’s Fiction.

She has a Bachelors Degree in Religious Education, an Associate in Computer Software and the completion of several courses in fiction writing.

Carole is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Central Ohio Fiction Writers, Circle of Pens (the founder to mentor beginning writers), Sisters of Crime, and The Wannabe Writer’s of West Virginia and Ohio. Carole lives in Ohio with her husband, and has co-labored with her husband in ministry, nationally and internationally.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Floor Model Dummy

My smile cracked more than once. I’m just not cut out for this. People walking by, touching my wares, touching me, all day long. I pose in different positions, but still…I am tired and sore. I am selling a little bit of my soul with every piece of merchandise I set out. Some readers walk by quickly, face averted, not daring to make eye contact. Some people are curious and aproach cautiously - maybe we bite? Perhaps my sign should be bigger.

Cozy mystery: $3

Who can resist a sale? A piece of my muse in exchange for gas and lunch money, ink and paper, gray matter, tears…poison and love.

Some readers are enticed by a free bookmark or the pamphlet with my new picture on the front. Is that really me?

The Map Quilt, a sequel to The Gold Standard, releases April 2012

If you love the $3 book, will you buy the next one?

Meet me, and learn about my books or editing services.

I stand. I pose again. Try not to look threatening. A lady wants to know what is Grace’s special gift? She thinks I should just tell her. I give her a couple of clues after she looks at me with a disgusted expression. Then she puts down the book and walks away.

Shellie and I take turns holding down the fort, being gracious, smiling, interacting, listening, giving advice. We are business people today, not just authors. You won’t find our wares down in the bookstore. Our books are on special, not the back cover price. We’ll sign them for you.

I am tired, even though I mostly posed all day. I talked my throat raw, realizing I don’t vocalize much at home, even if I read my manuscripts out loud. I met some lovely people and had great conversations with my neighbors. We did have a good time behind our booth.

But part of me says it would be easier to be a plastic floor model. Then I wouldn’t have a soul to shred up and give away.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lillian Duncan and Fredericksburg, Ohio

A guest post by Lillian Duncan.

Lillian Duncan is a writer who believes books can be entertaining and uplifting without being trashy. Her upcoming novel, PURSUED (White Rose Publishing) has several main settings. But the one nearest and dearest to her heart is Fredericksburg, Ohio. A real town in Ohio, but of course as the disclaimer says, the events and people relating to it are purely fictional!

This quaint village has a population of 500, give or take on any day. It’s in the middle of the largest Amish community in the world. Some Amish live in town, but most live in the surrounding country side.

SHOPPING DAY-The general store is busy!

The noodle factory that used to be a car dealership. Mrs. Miller’s has yummy noodles!

Notice the name of the business. It’s the Village Car and Buggy Wash! And don’t forget the laundromat

The village library was started and is still run by a dedicated group of residents who love books!

Here’s the town jail! Not much crime so it’s small. Actually, it’s a historical building now.

This tiny village has three churches! The red church, the white church, and the Mennonite Church.

This is the white church, Fredericksburg Church of Christ. It’s celebrating its 150th year. How amazing is that!

Lillian’s husband’s parents attended this church when he was born, he was baptized in it, and married in it. That’s what you call continuity!

And so ends the tour of Fredericksburg, Ohio. It’s an unpretentious village. Other towns in the area are more touristy, perhaps more picturesque. But the people here care about each other and are always ready to lend a helping hand when needed.

And that’s exactly what happens in her new book, PURSUED. Dylan Monroe is just an old country boy who believes in the Golden Rule. When big city attorney Reggie Meyers crashes into his old blue pick-up, he just wants to help her get home. But when they get there, her apartment’s been broken into and so begins their journey...

To learn more about Lillian Duncan and the books she writes, visit:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Professor Dad

This month I’ve been thinking about the lessons I learned from my dad. My father, Dr. Lee M. Haines, was a pastor, a professor and denominational official before he retired. He still serves as an adult Sunday School teacher in his home church. Dad did not sit me down very often to teach me. Most of these lessons came from simply observing him day in and day out.


My father reads the Bible every day. He taught Greek but he reads many translations and paraphrases for his daily devotions. One of the most unique was the Cotton Patch Gospel that set Jesus’ life in either Georgia or Alabama. Hearing dad read a section of the Sermon on the Mount with a fake southern drawl made us all laugh.


My mother, Maxine L. Haines, was the love of my father’s life. For years my mom lived with a chronic illness that left her prone to bleeding and bruising. Dad took her to specialists in Indiana as well as the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Later, when she developed cancer from the medications she’d taken, he cared for her until she passed away.


One of my best friends growing up told his family, “those Haines’ can’t eat a meal without getting out a dictionary or encyclopedia to settle an argument.” My father wrote Sunday School Bible lessons, magazine articles and contributed to a Bible commentary. He taught me to use the mind God gave me to think through what I believe and why I believe it. He still challenges me – although it’s been a long time since we needed a book at a meal with us.


Dad helped me prepare projects and papers for school clear into High School. He taught me to drive a Farm All Cub tractor in order to mow over four acres of land before I entered Junior High. He drove our little VW Karmann Ghia through drifts of snow to make sure I delivered my newspapers. Dad did not back away from hard work whether physical or mental.

What lessons did your dad teach you? I would love to hear about your family memories. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments. If this post has helped you or if you believe it might help someone you know, please share it. Thank you.

Pastor Mark Haines

Jesus says, "My yoke is easy" (Matthew 11:30)

Bay City Wesleyan Church

Q & A with Pastor Mark Haines

Q & A with Pastor Mark Haines on Kindle
PastrMarkHaines on Twitter

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Boys

The old cliche, a picture being worth a thousand words, leaves me wanting to offer you several thousand. Life in our corner of the world is winding up (or is it down) for summer vacation. I am about to finish my first school year working as an assistant in a Montessori classroom (4 - 5 year old children). My two younger boys are preparing for their final weeks before entering the halls of a "real" school in the fall. For now, I am hanging up my home school mom hat and donning another -- to be determined later.

Until then, I'd like to introduce the two men who help take care of their father's physical therapy needs while I spin around trying to balance all of my hats in honor of "Cat in the Hat."

Andrew, my youngest son, has always had a way with expression that could brighten my darkest days. I'd love for you to meet him. He's a little younger in this video than he is now, but his personality hasn't changed a bit. (I really hope this video works.)

Andrew is not afraid to let  his creativity out.
I am hoping that never fades. 

He makes friends easily with his winning smile and warm bear-hugs.

He'll show any grizzly who's boss.

 And then at the end of a long day on the job, 
he'll slide into a refreshing tub of water.

Jason, my third child, is always ready with a smile
(or a hug, but it's difficult to snap pictures that way). 

He takes his sister's torture treatments in stride. (NOT).

He'll happily show you the way into the best place for relaxation. 

It's been a pleasure spending today with you. Thanks for visiting. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Have You Ever Visited The Creation Musuem?

Husband and I enjoyed a trip to the Creation Museum in Kentucky earlier this year. We didn't take many pictures this time, but I'd like to share a few with you.
There is something about this display of Methuselah that we dearly love. This time we moved quickly through the exhibits until we found him. "Just how old do you think I am?" he asks.
We listen while he tells us his story. And what he thinks of the world he lives in. And then we linger.
It was not very crowded that day, or we could have had some kind soul take a picture of the two of us with the aged prophet.

I wish the creatures in the background showed up better in the photo. 
We also checked out the book store. Of course.
Another favorite display is the building of the ark. This is such a minor part of this large exhibit.

QFY: Where is your favorite museum located?


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